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Study, amid groundswell of opposition, shelves idea of wind turbines in Lake Erie 

Credit:  Barbara O'Brien | Jan 17, 2023 | buffalonews.com ~~

Opponents of wind turbines in Lake Erie have put flyers in mailboxes from Lackawanna to Dunkirk and taken to social media to voice their concerns about the idea – work, that for now at least, has paid off.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has determined this isn’t the right time to put the turbines in Lake Erie or Lake Ontario.

NYSERDA concluded the turbines would cost more than other renewable energy options, and wouldn’t offer a feasible contribution to state climate goals.

“Now is not the right time to prioritize Great Lakes wind projects in Lake Erie or Lake Ontario,” the agency recommended in a white paper summary of its feasibility study, which started last February by order of the state Public Service Commission.

“Great Lakes wind currently does not offer a unique, critical, or cost-effective contribution toward the achievement of New York State’s Climate Act goals beyond what existing, more cost-competitive programs are currently expected to deliver,” according to the report. 

The announcement came Dec. 30, before New Year’s Eve weekend. A member of Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie stumbled across the feasibility report that afternoon.

“We were surprised,” said Sharen Trembath, of Angola, who has led Lake Erie cleanups and beach sweeps for 40 years and opposed wind turbine projects in the lake the last 13 years. “I thought, ‘They’re just going to keep kicking the can down the road until we lose interest or die.'”

The issue of turbines in the lake has split the environmental community between those in favor of renewable energy and those concerned about the impact of wind turbines on the lake environment, Trembath said.

“Green energy at the cost of the environment is really not the goal of anybody,” said Dave Adrian, an aquatic biologist and member of the Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie. 

Trembath is worried migrating birds could get swept into the turbines. The future of the fresh water in the lake also is a concern, if the motors in the turbines should leak, she said. She and others also fear toxic sediments on the lake bottom would stir up during construction, and that maritime history, with its many shipwrecks, could be lost. There also were questions about the impact on the fishing industry.

“My whole life, I’ve tried to save the fish in the lake,” Trembath said.

Opponents also are concerned that the turbines would block radar used by border security and that the sight of dozens of turbines would wreck the view of the lake.

New York State’s Climate Act passed in 2019. It requires 70% of electricity to come from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, by 2030. That buoyed hopes for some in the renewable energy industry that turbines could one day be placed in the lakes.

Diamond Offshore Wind closely watched events surrounding Lake Erie wind turbines. Although the company did not have a specific project in mind, CEO Chris Wissemann said wind power in the Great Lakes becomes an important part of the renewable energy mix, particularly when Great Lakes states are trying to reach their carbon emissions goals.

The NYSERDA decision takes away the immediate prospect of New York proceeding with a project, Wissemann said. 

He said he hopes NYSERDA looks at Great Lakes wind in the context of the recently released scoping plan of the Climate Action Council, which includes recommendations on how to meet the state’s climate goals.

“We think there is a role for offshore wind to provide critical winter power production and certainly production at night,” Wissemann said.

Adrian said members were pleased that NYSERDA came to the same conclusions they had, including that the power grid was not ready to receive this kind of power. 

“They used a lot of the same criteria that we were using to scrutinize any such move,” Adrian said.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Jamestown, has introduced legislation to ban industrial wind turbines in freshwater lakes. The proposal has yet to get out of a Senate committee. 

“I am encouraged that after nearly two years of intense study and stakeholder engagement on the environmental, economic and social issues surrounding the potential siting of wind turbines in Lakes Erie and Ontario, the commission members came to essentially the same assessment that opponents of this effort have advanced all along: the risks, costs and uncertainties are too great and the possible benefits too little to make a compelling case for these projects,” Borrello said in a statement.

He also praised the citizens group.

“The voices of an educated, determined group of citizens can make a difference,” he said. 

Opponents remain vigilant.

“It mentions ‘for now,'” Trembath said of the study. “When you see ‘for now,’ you know what that means.”

The group wants to work on getting the State Legislature to issue a moratorium on any future plans to install wind turbines in the lake, Adrian said, “so this doesn’t have to keep being shot down every 10 years.”

Source:  Barbara O'Brien | Jan 17, 2023 | buffalonews.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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